(First of all, I’m for anyone who spells Katharine Hepburn’s name right. Brava.)
For me, of course, she’s preaching to the choir. Venezia is not for everyone. And if what you do is get off the train, head for San Marco, hang out there for one day, maybe two, what you’re going to experience is throngs of tourists, long lines, overpriced food*, a kitch/glass/mask/designer clothing overdose (FREE taxi to Murano…) and draw your conclusions from that. Aiuto.
I’ll be the first to encourage you not to bother coming at all unless you can spend a minimum of three full days here. It’s just not worth it. If you do come, include lots of time away from the center, or to return there after the marauding hoards re-board their cruise ships (the ones Mark Twain never saw); and then, see what you think. If you don’t care for Venice then, you never will.
It’s OK, though. There are all different types of travelers, and everyone will seek what they hope will meet their traveling needs. One lover of Venice, more or less, justified or not, maybe doesn’t matter much.
I was apprehensive before I came to live here. Would the masses of tourists get to me? (At the end of the first year in San Marco, they did.) Would I be able to create a semi-normal life here? Would the difficulty of living in such an odd place in the end outweigh my fascination for it?
Not yet it hasn’t. People tell me, “That’s so wonderful, you’re living your dream!” What I can tell you is that for me, it’s not a dream…it’s a drug. I have become addicted to the intimacy of the city, to the humanity that pervades it, to my legs of steel from crossing bridges and climbing stairs, to the mail being delivered by a man in a blue and yellow boat wearing a blue and yellow vest, to what’s left of Venetian lagoon customs that have nothing to do with Casanova or any Doge (although I always recommend the Secret Itineraries tour of the Palazzo Ducale for the first-timers, come no?); to having a landlord that not only knew Peggy Guggenheim, but who received a Chagall from her as a present; to having it not matter that I don’t have a garbage disposal, to having a tan for the first time in a decade because its a 40-min boat ride to the Lido; to dogs on boats, dogs in buses, dogs in bars and restaurants; to being fascinated by all the new, strange fish and seafood in all shapes, sizes and colors that I devour at every opportunity, when finances allow (How do you translate canoce? Good!, that’s how.); to the impromptu, dinners-after-9 among friends met per caso on the way home from the Billa (che programma hai sta sera?), to the gentle imprecision you find in everyday life that doesn’t seem to bother anyone but me; to the instructions I receive from a nearby Signora on the many ways to prepare the vegetable I’ve just selected from a vendor at the Rialto market (Sei in capace?, she asks) because she knows immediately from my height and my curiosity that I am not capable; to being able to get my shoes repaired in either a pet store or a cleaning supplies store; to not having to explain why aesthetics are important, to walking to lyric soprano lessons, and singing jazz standards with a talented young musician who’s just published his first book, to the water, Lord, Venice from the water; to just beginning to incorporate a little Venexian in to my Italian: non ghe xe mal…
…to how happy I am, every day, to have NO CAR.
So, it doesn’t bother me that there are comparisons to Disneyland, because if Venice doesn’t entice you to find out the difference between it and any theme park, it just means you’ll find your Venice somewhere else.
But for some of us, it, along with the rest of Italy, has done nothing less than change our entire lives, basta, fine.
*Shannon and her co-author Ruth can guide you to better eating in Venice. But to get the most out of their recommendations, you have to stay more than TWO DAYS. 😉